Why involve Michelle Obama in anti-test campaign?
I published a guest post yesterday about a postcard campaign starting today by a coalition of non-profit groups to try to persuade First Lady Michelle Obama to talk to her husband about changing his administration’s education policy on high-stakes standardized tests.
Many supporters of President Obama have been disappointed that his education secretary, Arne Duncan, has pursued school reform policies that not only retain the Bush administration’s emphasis on standardized tests but even expand them.
The First Lady herself has been quoted as saying that Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, which emphasized high-stakes tests, was detrimental to public schools. That, apparently, is what led to this postcard campaign.
It may well be that this is an exercise in futility. While Mrs. Obama has criticized No Child Left Behind, she has also said publicly that standardized tests are a fact of life in public school today (her children go to a private school, Sidwell Friends School in the District, where they are not routinely given).
Still, sometimes long shots pay off.
Anyone interested in sending a postcard can read about the campaign and get complete instructions on how to participate at the website of the organization Time Out From Testing, here.
Here’s the text of one postcard being sent to the First Lady, which explains well why the anti-testing organizations believe this is worth the effort.
It was written by Julie Woestehoff from Parents United for Responsible Education in Chicago, who connects high-stakes testing, Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity initiative and good health.
Woestehoff wrote the following on her blog Healthy Learning:
Here’s what I’m writing to Michelle Obama as part of this weekend’s postcard campaign:
You are a strong advocate for our children’s physical health, and for that we thank you.
Today we are asking you to be a strong advocate for their mental, emotional and intellectual health, too – to promote the fitness of their minds as well as their bodies.
You planted a garden at the White House to give children a hands-on experience that would help them begin to think about nutrition. Our children need a garden of learning, too, where we plant great ideas, get children excited about education, and harvest academic success for every student. You’ve asked children to get active, to move, play, and get involved in sports. Children also need to be freed from bubble sheet learning-- to get up off of their desk chairs in class to create, demonstrate, and integrate!
We’d like you to join us in a new campaign – “Let’s Move Away from High-Stakes Testing.” The goal of this campaign is to make sure that children grow up with healthy minds, learning a full, enriched curriculum nurtured by a variety of healthy, active, hands-on instructional and assessment methods.
It’s important that the whole country get behind healthy learning, and this includes everyone understanding more about what can happen when schools depend too much on standardized tests.
Because, unfortunately, high-stakes testing is an invasive weed in our healthy garden of learning. Teaching to the test has choked out critical areas like the arts, science, history and civics along with physical activity and sports.
Like fast food, high-stakes tests are easy, cheap, quick – and potentially unsafe when overused. Yet they have become the main dish of schooling despite the warnings of scientists that they should be used only sparingly, in a balanced "assessment diet."
High-stakes testing seems to have a disproportionately negative impact on low-income children whose schools can be like the educational equivalent of the urban “food desert.” Unlike more upscale areas, these neighborhoods don’t offer a lot of fresh produce or wide varieties of foods, and their schools tend to focus more on the empty calories of test drill than on an enriched, varied curriculum.
It’s not by choice that this situation has developed. Schools across the U. S. have been force-fed this testing regime under the harsh test-and-punish policies of the No Child Left Behind Act.
As Congress begins to rewrite this law, we are asking for your help to phase out the bad, unhealthy aspects of testing in our schools and help us replace them with an educational diet and exercise program of enriched curricula, diverse instruction, and appropriate, high-quality assessments.
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| May 28, 2010; 9:30 AM ET
Categories: Standardized Tests
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